04 May 2018

Would a narcissist steal your sweetheart just for kicks?

Narcissists tend to take advantage of people and are less likely to feel guilty about it.

Narcissists aren't more likely to pursue partners who are already taken, but it doesn't stop them, a new study finds.

Study leader Amy Brunell wanted to find out if people with narcissistic traits were more likely than others to engage in what she calls "mate poaching".

Selfishness and inflated self-importance

"I thought it was possible that there might be something appealing about the 'game' of mate poaching that might appeal to narcissists because they are known to play games," said Brunell, an associate professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

The study was published online in the journal PLOS One.

The study focused on a group of college students who had personality traits that the researchers described as "grandiose narcissism". These traits include selfishness and inflated self-importance. Narcissists tend to take advantage of people and are less likely to feel guilty about it. Still, grandiose narcissists can appear to be charming and socially skilled, the researchers said.

According to PsychCentral, the following are examples of narcissistic traits:

  • An unrealistic sense of self-importance, e.g. exaggerates achievements and talents and expects to be recognised as superior
  • A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance or beauty
  • The belief that they are "special" and unique and can only be understood by other "special" people
  • A very strong sense of entitlement, e.g. expects special treatment
  • Exploiting others, e.g. takes advantage of others to achieve their own ends
  • Lack of empathy, e.g. unwilling to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them
  • Displays arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes

A previous Health24 article states that men with high levels of narcissism have an easier time than others attracting a potential mate.

No regard for relationship status

Brunell's study of hundreds of college students revealed that the narcissists among them did more often pursue people who were already in a relationship. But they weren't necessarily motivated by the fact that a person was already spoken for.

"They seem to not discriminate between those in relationships and those who are single. It could be that they just go after whoever appeals to them without regard for relationship status," Brunell said in a university news release.

"Understanding the behaviour of narcissists is important because it helps us better understand the people who are in our lives – and the types of people we don't necessarily want in our lives," she said.

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